Juliet’s transformation from a happy and lively young girl to suicidal lover occurs over such a short amount of time. Juliet seems to evolve through specific moments which diminish her will to live quickly and drastically. Each moment with Romeo influences Juliet and changes her. Her love for Romeo slowly overtakes her sense of self and will to live. Here, I lay out the story again, but focusing on Juliet’s moments of progression from life to death.
Today’s post will cover Acts I, II, and III. In “Telling Her Story: Part Two”, I will cover Juliet’s progression in Acts IV and V.
”Ecoutez!” & “Je veux vivre”: Juliette is lively, full of youth and happiness. Not interested in love, marriage, or heartbreak. Her music is upbeat, lots of coloratura and very high range.
Madrigal/Duet “Ange adorable”: At first she seems surprised and not sure how to engage with Romeo, but by the end of the duet he kisses her and she is swept away. This connection between Romeo and Juliet is reflected in the music by tight-knit and interweaving harmonies between the two lovers.
Finale “C’etait Romeo”: Juliet realizes who she has fallen in love with and that their love is fatal. This is a major moment of change and transformation where she experiences real sadness and fear. Her music here is elongated, slower and includes more repeated notes within a narrow range while she states that her coffin will be her wedding bed.
”Helas!”: Juliet’s first words of this Act are “Alas”. She is upset and doesn’t want to give into the “blind and barbaric hatred” of the rival families. Juliet’s words here show such a difference compared to the earlier gleeful moments of Act I. She offers to renounce her name – which is the first sign of Juliet abandoning her name, self, and life.
Balcony Recit/duet: Juliet confesses her love for Romeo, but doesn’t want to seem immodest by revealing her love. In the second part of this interrupted grand duet, Juliet is fully taken over by her love and admits that she will give her life to Romeo and “renounce everything that is not [him]”. This declaration is a step further than giving up her name, she will now give her life to be with Romeo. When she tries to bid him “Adieu”, Romeo sweeps her away with a chromatic echo which leads to the two lovers singing in harmonious thirds again.
Juliet announces to Friar Laurence: “Here is my husband” even though they aren’t actually married yet. This shows Juliet’s willingness to love and marriage, which she showed absolutely no interest in during the first act. She also proclaims “je m’abandonne/I abandon myself”, reflecting a loss of sense of self.
Wedding scene: What is fascinating about this scene is the fact that it actually happens on stage. In the Shakespeare work, the secret marriage occurs off stage which really surprised me. This scene may be one of the most important for Juliette. It is the official moment before God where Juliet is no longer a Capulet and has given everything, her life and her name, to her beloved Romeo. Here, Romeo and Juliet sing in octaves/unison which displays their sacred union.